Nearly one in six women have been victims of drink or drug spiking, a new study has revealed, as the number of attacks doubled in a year.
A study of 750 young people by the charity Alcohol Education Trust found that 15 per cent of women aged 16 to 24 and seven per cent of men said they had been victims of spiking.
The number of spiking offences also jumped from 722 in 2020 to 1,466 in 2021, according to Freedom of Information requests to 23 police forces.
Yet there was just one prosecution for 2021 and only eight in the previous year. The Alcohol Education Trust blamed the low prosecution rates on hospitals’ reluctance to test for spiked drugs and police to investigate. It also said many victims felt too ashamed and confused to report attacks.
Helena Conibear, chief executive of the trust, told the home affairs committee it was an epidemic which was only starting to emerge.
“The reason why spiking is so prevalent is because the perpetrators know there are no ramifications at the moment,” she said.
Only eight per cent of the 750 people surveyed told police that they had been spiked, while some victims warned of eight-hour waits at accident and emergency departments or to get an appointment. “That’s why there are no prosecutions because after 24 to 48 hours, evidence of spiking is no longer there,” said Ms Conibear.
She said accident and emergency departments needed to take the issue “seriously” and collect evidence. She also said police should adopt a model being piloted in Bristol, where spiking test kits were available on site.
Spiking victims speak of ‘degrading’ experience
Spiking victims told MPs of the "overwhelming shame" they experienced after being drugged on nights out. The two women and one man told how they suffered memory blanks, lost control of their bodies and were "violently ill" after being targeted in bars and clubs.
Hannah Stratton, from Newquay, in Cornwall, told of how her drink was drugged while she was having a few glasses of wine with two friends in a quiet bar. The 51-year-old said she had to put her head on the bar table, as she could not hold her upper body up and her legs felt like lead.
Her friends helped her into a taxi home, but she said the driver judged her for being drunk. She felt the whole experience was "degrading". Ms Stratton said: "You just feel so disgusted in yourself – and that may make sense to the other victims here.
"And it sounds really silly – a number of people that have said me: ‘No, no, no, don’t blame yourself, why are you feeling disgusted in yourself?’ But you do.
"It takes quite a while to actually switch that around and realise that actually, I’ve got no self-blame or I shouldn’t be blaming myself, but that’s why I didn’t report it."